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Once again, Ohio State's terrific regular season was tarnished by a bowl defeat.

Florida State and Ohio State ended up at the Sugar Bowl becauses of painful losses to arch-rivals.

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Big Plays Carry Seminoles Past the Buckeyes

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 2, 1998; Page C9

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 1 At first, Florida State looked as if it would rather be elsewhere than the Sugar Bowl tonight.

But a series of big plays, many working in the Seminoles' favor, ensured that they left the Louisiana Superdome with their 12th victory in their past 13 bowl appearances.

Quarterback Thad Busby guided a quick-strike offense to two touchdowns late in the first half to lead the fourth-ranked Seminoles to a 31-14 victory over ninth-ranked Ohio State before a crowd that appeared smaller than the announced attendance of 67,289.

Ohio State, trying to earn some respect for the Big Ten Conference, finished its season 10-3. Of the seven Big Ten teams that earned bowl bids, only two were victorious-Michigan over Washington State in the Rose Bowl and Purdue over Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl.

Until its final regular season game, Florida State (11-1) had thoughts of playing in the Orange Bowl and winning at least a share of a second national championship in five seasons. However, a 32-29 loss to Florida on Nov. 22 reduced the Seminoles' national title chances to slim and sent them to the Sugar Bowl for the third time in four seasons. Last season, they lost here to Florida in a game that decided the national title.

This year, it didn't even get that far. The Seminoles' hopes were dashed earlier in the day when top-ranked Michigan won the Rose Bowl.

"Depending what happens tomorrow, maybe we can finish No. 2," said defensive end Andre Wadsworth, referring to Friday's game between second-ranked Nebraska and third-ranked Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.

Florida State was the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation during the regular season (39.7 points), but the Seminoles sputtered offensively in the first quarter. Busby, who averaged fewer than one interception per game this season, threw two in the first quarter-as many as he had thrown in any game this season.

But he rebounded quickly and by halftime, Busby had passed for one touchdown and run for another as Florida State had a commanding 21-3 lead. He finished the game 22 of 33 for 334 yards. Wide receiver E.G. Green was named the game's most valuable player after catching seven passes for 176 yards.

Florida State's defense, which continually put pressure on quarterbacks Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine in the first half, helped the lead stand up. While Ohio State played better in the second half, the Buckeyes could not score a touchdown until 8 minutes 57 seconds remained.

"They're a big, strong defensive football team," Ohio State Coach John Cooper said. "They kept relentless pressure on throughout the game. ... Their pass rush was the best I've seen in a long, long time."

A 34-yard field goal by Dan Stultz and a safety when Busby inadvertently stepped out of the end zone cut the Buckeyes' deficit to 21-8. But standout defensive end Andre Wadsworth intercepted Jackson deep in Ohio State territory. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 35-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 24-8.

However, a 24-yard run by linebacker Jerry Rudzinski on a fake punt gave Ohio State some life. On third and 10 from midfield, Germaine eluded two pass rushers, rolled left and threw against the grain to John Lumpkin behind the defense. Lumpkin made a shoestring catch at the 8-yard line and made it into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown. A pass on a two-point conversion attempt was incomplete, leaving Florida State with a 24-14 lead.

It was the second time Lumpkin had gotten into the end zone. Midway through the second quarter, with Florida State leading, 7-3, he caught an apparent touchdown pass on a fake field goal. However, the play was nullified by a penalty for illegal substitution, an ensuing field goal attempt missed and Florida State scored two touchdowns before halftime.

After gaining only one first down on its first two possessions, Ohio State took a 3-0 lead on a 40-yard field goal by Stultz with 1:56 left in the first quarter. ut Florida State answered by moving 79 yards in six plays for a go-ahead touchdown.

On first down from the Ohio State 27-yard line, Florida State picked up a blitz and Busby completed a pass to Green along the left sideline. Green slipped two tacklers and waltzed into the end zone for a 7-3 lead on the final play of the first quarter.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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